I have an eight-ish year old Golden Retriever who recently has been getting viral papillomas. The first was in his mouth on the bottom of his lower jaw. It was surgically removed and biopsied which is how they determined it was a VP. Now, he has three more that have popped up on the side of his mouth.
From what I’ve read, VPs are more of a puppy problem than one of older dogs. Should I be concerned that he keeps getting these? What are the treatments that we can consider or will they go away on their own?
San Antonio, TX
Canine viral papillomas are also known as warts. Viral papillomas can be very unsightly, but they almost never cause harm to dogs. Viral papillomas occur most frequently as masses in or around the mouth. They also may out of the chin. They rarely develop on the feet, anus, or trunk of the body.
Viral papillomas are most common in puppies because young dogs’ immature immune systems aren’t capable of keeping the warts at bay. Most puppies eliminate the warts without any treatment as their immune systems mature.
It is not common for eight-year-old dogs to develop viral papillomas. However, I don’t think you need to be worried. Maybe your dog’s immunity to warts wore off, or maybe he was recently exposed to the virus for the first time. Either way, he is very likely to mount an effective immune response and eliminate the papillomas without any medical intervention. That’s a good thing, because there aren’t many effective treatments for warts. Excision generally does not work because, as you have learned, new warts can grow to replace ones that have been removed. A treatment called autoimmuniztion is used in severe cases, but I have never had to resort to this when treating a patient, regardless of age.
In rare instances viral papillomas may be a sign of a generally weakened immune system. If your dog’s warts get out of control or if other problems develop you should ask your vet about this.
But I’ll bet that won’t be necessary. It’s most likely that eventually the warts will go away on their own.